“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30, TNIV
Peter Jackson, the man most responsible for the great Lord of the Rings film trilogy, is about to premier the first part of his The Hobbit in the U.S. These movies are, of course, based on the splendid books by J.R.R. Tolkien. In preparation for the Hobbit movie, my daughters and I are watching all nine hours or so of the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings.
While watching The Fellowship of the Ring the other day, I was struck by something that Boromir says. As you may recall, Boromir is from a country called Gondor. Many years ago, the King of Gondor left his people and did not return. Since then, they have been governed by a succession of men who’s title is “The Steward of Gondor.” The Steward’s job is to keep the throne open for the eventual return of the true King.
The Steward is a lot like us. Our King, through his ascension, has gone back into Heaven. He tells us that he is coming again. In the meantime, we are left to watch after the Kingdom on his behalf. Of course, this parallel is very incomplete. We are not alone. Christ is present with us, we have the Holy Spirit, etc. But I hope you get the point.
Over the years, some of the people of Gondor have given up on waiting. The current Steward of Gondor essentially acts as if he is the king, and a demanding and difficult one at that. Boromir happens to be the eldest son of the Steward, so he is set to become Steward when his father dies. When Boromir meets a man named Aragorn, and learns that Aragorn may be the rightful heir and true King of Gondor, he is not happy. In the film version, he practically spits out this great line: “Gondor has no king; Gondor needs no king.”
How many times have we felt that way? When things are going well it is easy for us to think that we don’t need a King, we don’t need a God. When things are going poorly, when we are fed up and God does not seem to be hearing us, we might also say that we don’t need him. Sometimes we pay lip service to wanting a King, but our lives and actions show that we would rather not have one. What is true of us as individuals has also been true of large groups of people. Nations, companies, schools and even churches have essentially said “We don’t need God, we can do this on our own.”
As the Lord of the Rings story progresses, Boromir gets to know Aragorn. He finds someone who is strong yet compassionate, wise yet humble, a leader who is a servant. A moment comes when it looks like Boromir may die (I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that). He looks up at Aragorn and says “I would have followed you, my brother… my captain… my king.”
Boromir didn’t want a king because he had never known a good one. He had only known self-serving rulers. But as he got to know Aragorn he came to respect him, trust him, and even love him. Perhaps we are like Boromir. Perhaps we would rather take care of ourselves because we don’t know a better alternative.
But what if there is a better alternative? What if Jesus Christ is a good and loving and merciful king? That could be a king worth following, even a king worth turning over charge of our life to.
Advent is about waiting for the King. It is about saying “I have no king, but I need the King.” Today let me suggest turning to King Jesus, asking him to reveal himself. As we spend time with him, perhaps we too will get to know a good King whom we might trust with our lives.
Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.